Happy Retirement to Leo & Deb

After a long history with Sierra Harvest, including co-founder, developer of new programs, and volunteer extraordinaire, please join us in congratulating Leo Chapman and his partner Deb on their Sierra Harvest retirement this season.

If you already know Leo, you know that his partner Deb has been a force by his side every step of the way.  Most people don’t know how much they have contributed to the vitality of our local food and farm movement. 

Leo started Blue Bird Farm on a community member’s property, which was the beginnings of what would become the Sierra Harvest Land Match Program, and then started hosting farm potlucks to build community around food and farming.  These events later evolved to include dozens of farm across Western Nevada County, attracting hundreds of guests. 

Soon after, Leo realized he couldn’t do it alone, and so he formed a non-profit called Living Lands Agrarian Network with Masie Ganz, Tim Van Wagner, and Vince Booth with a mission to create a collaborative model for successful ecological farmers and farms.  Farmer Willow Hein joined the team to help grow the vision.  A few years a later, there was a network of Land Match farms where young farmers were getting trained in the business of farming and working collaboratively to create their own farm businesses.

In 2013 Living Lands Agrarian Network combined with another organization to become Sierra Harvest.  Leo and Deb stayed involved in many ways over the years – volunteering, building infrastructure at Food Love Farm, mentoring young farmers, overseeing the Land Match program, assessing farmable properties and matching owners with young farmers, as well as teaching beginning farmers at their own Chapman Family Farm.  The list of things that Leo and Deb have contributed to Sierra Harvest and our farming community is endless.

Please join us in wishing them a fantastic retirement from Sierra Harvest, as well as happiness and gratitude as they will now have the opportunity to travel and enjoy more time together and on the road.  But we have no delusions – Leo and Deb are continually thinking about how to make the world a better place and we know they will continue to share their passion, inspiration and vision for what can be possible as they explore this new phase of their lives.

Leo & Deb are also looking for a farmer who would like to live at Chapman Family Farm and take over the farm for the next year, and potentially years to come!  Contact Deb & Leo at ltlfeet@yahoo.com to learn more, and be sure to leave your phone number in your email to them.

Eric Ove: Cooking up Skills for Lifetime of Health at Brighter Futures for Youth

By Olivia Steele

Eric Ove, who “reads a cookbook like a mystery novel,” is Bright Futures for Youth’s (BFFY) first-ever full-time Kitchen and Nutrition Program Manager.  Eric says his passion for the power of deliciously nutritious food was born when he fully understood how “the right blending of flavors, aromas, and textures can create a memorable and even healing experience.” With experience in some of Nevada County’s most beloved restaurants and time spent as a supervisor in a children’s educational and behavioral program, he was made for the job.

Marrying the value of fresh, whole foods with exploration of adventurous, multi-cultural flavors and the appeal of comfort foods, Eric encourages expansive imagination in meals. The youth get to experience the magic of adding cinnamon and cocoa powder to chili, or even deconstructing shepherd’s pie into a medley of lemon mint peas, garlic scallion mashed potatoes, and red-wine spiced beef and pork filling. Seeing the joy and inspiration that kids bring to the plate reminds Eric that he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be.

Eric’s dreams continue to fuel his work, he has goals to offer as many as four cooking classes per month inspired by student curiosity, homestead storage expertise, and skills that encourage food knowledge and independence for life. Each class offered is tailored to support confidence, skill, understanding, and enthusiasm – ranging from classes on balancing price and quality for ingredients to classes on “how to turn a pumpkin into a pie.”

In between cooking and serving 150 meals a week, Eric is making moves to develop a no-questions-asked food pantry where youth can grab shelf-stable, nutritious food any day they need. In 2021, through gleaning and local farm efforts, Sierra Harvest was able to send 28,343 pounds of produce to Interfaith Food Ministry. Eric decided to utilize the goods from IFM to implement a dehydration program, producing orange vanilla dehydrated apples, black pepper and thyme strawberries, and even a “warming winter strawberry granola with delightfully spicy strawberry chips.” We’re so thankful for community members like Eric who cultivate working relationships with local farms and organizations to provide not only nutritious, heart-healthy meals to youth – but to also demystify “acquired tastes” and encourage exploration into rich tastes and fearless flavors.